Many college freshmen enter the world of higher education with some volunteer experience under their belts. Some needed to complete a set number of volunteer hours to graduate. Others sought out community service opportunities to make their college applications stand out. And some simply felt a desire to give back, adding volunteer service to their already rigorous high school schedules. Once those college freshmen start their first year on campus, though, a slew of academic and social activities may take the place of those volunteer hours, and draw attentions away from unpaid work in the community. We’re here to make a case for volunteerism in college, as there may be some benefits to community service that you haven’t yet considered when drawing up those schedules.
Across the country, many agree. The rates of volunteerism have stayed steady over the last few years in the 16-24 age group, rising about two percentage points annually since 2005. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, individuals with higher levels of educational attainment are consistently more likely to volunteer than those with less education, and in 2009, more than 42 percent of college graduates volunteered. Check out the benefits of volunteerism in college we’ve come up with below for even more reason to volunteer your time, because you’ll not only be making your communities better, but you may be doing yourself a favor as well.
Lots of high school students have volunteerism on their college resumes. Fewer college students are able to boast volunteer experience on the resumes they’ll be using to apply for jobs post-graduation. If you’re able to fit the time in, even if it’s alongside a part-time, paying campus job, it could be worth your while to pursue a volunteer position. Employers like seeing that you volunteer your time, and are able to manage your time well enough to take on an unpaid position. Volunteerism also suggests that you’re a team player, a quality many employers will look for in potential hires. Many companies also lead a number of annual volunteer projects on their staffs, so if you’re active in community service and applying to work for such an organization, play up that experience. You’ll look interested in the company’s mission and get a leg up on other applicants.
Volunteer experience may also boost your financial aid package. There are a great deal of scholarships and grants out there that list community service as a prerequisite, so if you dedicate some time each week to volunteer work, you could be giving your financial aid profile a boost as well. Once you start volunteering, you’ll see how easy it is to continue doing so, whether you’re fulfilling the requirements of a scholarship or looking to pad your resume.
Volunteer positions are a great way to meet people, especially if you volunteer in an area that could be of use to you post-graduation. Interested in education? Try volunteer tutoring. The program coordinators may be willing to vouch for you when you’re ready to apply for paying jobs after graduation, or even point you to job opportunities you may not have heard about otherwise. Interesting in nursing or health care? Perhaps there is a free clinic near campus that offers volunteer positions. Those contacts you make in these kinds of positions will be invaluable, and could be a good source for you long after you find a job. Aside from a professional network, volunteerism can also help you build your social network. You’ll not only be able to find like-minded people who share your interests, but people from different walks of life as you, as well.
Whether it’s a somewhat selfish reason to volunteer or not, volunteerism makes you feel good. The work you do will be rewarding and beneficial to segments of the population and areas of the community that need volunteers to thrive. In a volunteer situation, one person can make a real difference, and you’ll get that feeling once you start.
Volunteering can also help you build on your existing skill sets. If you’re relatively shy and want to become more outgoing, find a position that will build up your communication skills. If you’re not sure about a particular field of study or have interests in several potential majors, try volunteer positions related to those areas. Even if you do something completely different with your life, you’ll now be able to boast experience in a variety of different fields. If you’re not a good organizer or have some trouble procrastinating when it comes to work and academics, try a volunteer gig that involves some responsibility. You’ll be surprised how you’ll improve in those areas once you see that a person or organization is relying on you.
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